December 1, 2015 – 10:09AM
National political reporter
Julie Bishop has rejected outright Tony Abbott’s claim that his government was the victim of “well-organised white-anting”, and blamed his own poor performance as the reason he was ousted as Prime Minister.
Peta Credlin was a staffer, she’s now a private citizen and I think she’s entitled to be able to get on with her life without this detailed analysis of each and every conversation and glance.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
This is in stark contrast to Mr Abbott, who in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, defended his record, declaring his government could not have done any better.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she was present during phone calls made by both leadership contenders: Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
He blamed internal dysfunction, the opposition and Senate for cutting his two-year prime ministership short.
“I think it was a very successful government in spite of a feckless Senate, an irresponsible Labor Party, a poisonous media culture and well organised white-anting,” Mr Abbott said.
Asked on the Nine Network’s Today program on Tuesday morning if Mr Abbott was a victim, the deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said: “No, I don’t believe so.”
She said after the leadership spill attempt in February when 39 people voted for a spill motion despite there being no leadership contender, Mr Abbott had asked for six months to improve.
Ms Bishop says it’s time former prime minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff, Peta Credlin, was allowed to move on with her life. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
“And when the next spill motion came 54 members of the party voted for a new leader,” Ms Bishop said.
“That’s how I saw the situation. I certainly was not aware of white-anting although I’m sure that the former prime minister has a number of concerns about what went on in the last six months of his time as prime minister.”
Ms Bishop played down a report that she was a silent participant in a phone call Malcolm Turnbull had with Scott Morrison before the February push, in which Mr Turnbull sounded out Mr Morrison for the Treasury position.
Mr Morrison was subsequently named Treasurer in Mr Turnbull’s cabinet reshuffle but has tried to dismiss the report as “tin foil hat conspiracies”.
Ms Bishop similarly tried to play down the report and said she was a participant in phone calls made by both leadership contenders.
“I was there when Malcolm Turnbull called people, I was there when Tony Abbott called people,” Ms Bishop said.
Conservative figures in the party are furious with Ms Bishop – who they see as trying to play both sides of the fence but was ultimately disloyal to Mr Abbott. Ms Bishop has always denied the charge of disloyalty saying her role as deputy is to the party and not to the prime minister of the day.
But revelations Ms Bishop’s chief of staff attended the meeting of plotters at the home of Liberal MP Peter Hendy the night before the successful coup in September further enraged the right and sparked demands she explain her full role.
Let Peta move on: Bishop
Ms Bishop leapt to the defence of her former internal foe, Peta Credlin who served as the Prime Minister’s chief of staff.
Her domineering style became legendary inside the government and soon spilled into the media and eventually became a symbol for Mr Abbott’s failed leadership.
In the second instalment of his five-part feature on the downfall of the Abbott government, Fairfax Media’s Peter Hartcher has revealed details of her commandeering style and her extremely close relationship with her boss, Mr Abbott.
Ms Bishop said it was time for people no longer in their jobs to be left alone to get on with their lives.
“Peta Credlin was a staffer, she’s now a private citizen and I think she’s entitled to be able to get on with her life without this detailed analysis of each and every conversation and glance,” she told Sky News.